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PFT's Week Two picks

[Editor's note:  Each week, Rosenthal and I will go head to head,
picking the winner of each game.  The guy who does worse each week gets
to be the one to copy and paste together the text the next week.  Last week, we tied.  The NBC Competition Committee decided that I should have to copy and paste it all together again.  And so I'll take the high road and accept the ruling.  In three days, after everyone applauds me for taking the high road, I'll bitch about it on the radio.]

[UPDATE:  As it turns out, we didn't tie.  Rosenthal won.  And I should have kept my damn mouth shut when I realized that he'd counted his victories incorrectly.]

Bills at Packers

Florio’s take:  In Week Two of the 2009 season, the Packers hosted an AFC team, and the AFC team stole a win.  In Win Two of the 2010 season, another AFC team comes to town.  But there’s a big difference between last year’s Bengals and this year’s Bills.  Even with Packers running back Ryan Grant done for the year, Green Bay has too much talent — and the Bills don’t have nearly enough.

Florio’s pick:  Packers 42, Bills 19.

Rosenthal’s take: This reminds me of the blowout specials Florio used to get to pick last year when we split the workload.  You could try to make a case for the Bills, but you’d be trying too hard.  Buffalo doesn’t have the receiver depth to test Green Bay’s secondary.  The Bills’ three-headed running game was oddly underused last week.  Their screens were predictable.  Holes closed on C.J. Spiller a lot faster than they did at Clemson or in the preseason.  Don’t expect daylight this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Packers 27, Bills 10.

Dolphins at Vikings

Florio’s take:  The Vikings’ offense and the Dolphins’ defense cancel each other out.  So this one will come down to the ability of the Minnesota defense to bottle up the Miami offense.  Given that the Bills were able to keep the attack largely in check last week, the Vikings should have no problems shutting them down.

Florio’s pick:  Vikings 24, Dolphins 12.

Rosenthal’s take: Miami’s defense was impressive in Buffalo.  Mike Nolan did a lot of fun things with Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake; they can get pressure on Brett Favre. Even short a few players, this is an improved linebacker group.  Favre also may not be ready to take advantage of a Dolphins secondary that features Benny Sappy a little too prominently.  There’s an old axiom that you shouldn’t pick a team to cover the spread unless you think they can win. 5.5 points feels like too much.  So let’s just go all the way and take the Dolphins in an upset special.  (I changed this pick at the last minute, which is the kiss of death.)  [Editor's note:  Hey, Rosey, if you're gonna pick the upset, just pick the upset and be done with it.]

Rosenthal’s pick: Dolphins 23, Vikings 21.

Chiefs at Browns

Florio’s take:  With former Patriot Scott Pioli running the Chiefs and former Patriot turncoat Eric Mangini coaching the Browns, this one carries a strong undercurrent of hostility.  Then there’s the fact that Browns running back Jerome Harrison shredded the K.C. defense for 286 yards last December.  Look for the new-look Chiefs to bring their new attitude to Ohio, and to send the Browns to a loss in the second of two games that most expected Cleveland to win.

Florio’s pick:  Chiefs 20, Browns 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Remember all the positive energy in Kansas City on Monday night?  Imagine that, but the complete opposite happening in Cleveland if the Browns fall behind Sunday.  Jake Delhomme’s injury doesn’t hurt the Browns, though.  Seneca Wallace is different, and could force the Browns coaches to get creative with a roster that begs for creativity to make up for a lack of talent.  Eric Mangini can’t afford to lose the Belichick B-team Bowl after last week’s collapse in Tampa.  Romeo Crennel knows just how to lose in Cleveland.

Rosenthal’s pick: Browns 17, Chiefs 14.

Bears at Cowboys

Florio’s take:  The Bears lucked into a win at home and the Cowboys squandered a victory of their own on the road.  This week, the Cowboys head back to Dallas, 25 years after the Bears authored a 44-0 beatdown of the ‘Boys.  The Bears haven’t won in Big D since the year after that game — and their streak of futility will continue.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 24, Bears 10.

Rosenthal’s take: No clue what to make of the Bears after last week.   Jay Cutler moved the ball very well, Matt Forte is revived, and the defense stuffed Detroit all day.  Yet they still needed a lucky call to save them from an opening loss at home.  The Cowboys are easier to read.  Their offensive line has problems and they know it.  The defense is great.  Will the return of two injured, older starting lineman be enough to turn things around?  It’s enough this week.

Rosenthal’s pick: Cowboys 24, Bears 20.

Cardinals at Falcons

Florio’s take:  The Cards barely beat a still-bad Rams team last week, and the Falcons gave fits to the Steelers on their home field.  Atlanta realizes that the window will close quickly if they can’t keep pace with the Saints.  Besides, Falcons are far more menacing birds.

Florio’s pick:  Falcons 28, Cardinals 20.

Rosenthal’s take: Arizona fans complaining about style points last week need to get a grip.  Kurt Warner has left the building.  This is a different Cardinals team, and they are going to have to win creatively while Derek Anderson figures things out. The guy led two impressive fourth-quarter drives last week and that will do for now.  Matt Ryan, on the other hand, has struggled to move the ball since the preseason.  I think Atlanta’s improved defense carries the day here.  Both these teams deserve to be 1-1. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Falcons 19, Cardinals 14. 

Buccaneers at Panthers

Florio’s take:  Since 2003, the Panthers have handled the Bucs on 11 of 14 occasions.  Though Tampa pulled off a minor surprise on Sunday against the Browns, the Panthers can be expected to take care of business on their own turf.  If they can’t, Carolina could be 0-5 at the bye.

Florio’s pick:  Panthers 24, Buccaneers 14.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bucs have a golden opportunity to go 2-0, even if Panthers starting quarterback Matt Moore plays as expected despite a concussion last week.  Raheem Morris has the Bucs defense looking improved, like they did at the end of last year.  These two similar teams fly well below the NFL radar and got against current league norms.  They want to win with running, defense, and not screwing things up too badly passing the ball.  John Fox has more practice.  And better running backs. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Panthers 20, Bucs 13.

Eagles at Lions

Florio’s take:  With Mike Vick making his first start since 2006, the question becomes whether he can play like he did against the Packers, who weren’t prepared to face him, when facing a Lions team that knows Vick will be the guy.  Lions coach Jim Schwartz never has had to defend Vick; when Schwartz served as defensive coordinator for the Titans, Schwartz’s team was the last one to play the Falcons before Vick returned from a broken leg.  Look for Schwartz to try to keep Vick in the pocket in the hopes that he’ll be forced to throw — and that he’ll force a few mistakes.  And then Kevin Kolb will get “healthy” quickly.

Florio’s pick:  Lions 20, Eagles 13.

Rosenthal’s take: The battle of the tortured fan bases.  The rest of the world learned about what it meant to be a Lions fan this week.  Week One, full of hope, they lost their young franchise quarterback and a game in the most painful way possible.  The Lions have a vertical passing attack with the weakest-armed quarterback in the league in Shaun Hill.  Eagles fans have it pretty good, but they like drama.  They talked up Kevin Kolb all offseason, then gave up on him after 30 minutes.  It’s hard to blame them after the way Michael Vick played last week.  Vick will put it to the Lions just to make this whole situation more ridiculous.

Rosenthal’s pick: Eagles 27, Lions 16.

Ravens at Bengals

Florio’s take:  The Bengals somehow swept the Ravens last year.  It won’t be happening again in 2010.  Baltimore looks as good as they ever have looked, and the Bengals looked nothing like they looked a year ago.  Look for Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis to continue to drop the hammer on anyone who looks in his direction.

Florio’s pick:  Ravens 23, Bengals 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Bengals defense said they were confused early against the Patriots.  So were guys like Tedy Bruschi that picked Cincinnati to go to the Super Bowl.  At least the Bengals passing attack showed signs of life after the early disaster.  It may have been garbage time, but Carson Palmer couldn’t put up big stats any time last year.  Unlike the Jets, Cincinnati has the weapons to take advantage of Baltimore’s secondary.

Rosenthal’s pick: Bengals 27, Ravens 23.

Steelers at Titans

Florio’s take:  Last year, these two teams kicked off a season that many assumed would end in a playoff rematch.  Neither qualified for the postseason.  This year, both look like they’re on their way to another trip to January.  It all comes down to the Steelers defense against the Titans offense, and the Steelers defense is simply too tough.

Florio’s pick:  Steelers 13, Titans 9.

Rosenthal’s take: The Titans were my pick to win the AFC South in the PFT Season Preview, so I’m basically going to take them at home unless they are facing the ’85 Bears.  The Steelers defense isn’t at that level, but it could wind up being the best in 2010.  Pittsburgh can neutralize Chris Johnson — they held him to 57 yards in last year’s opener.  So it will come down Vince Young versus Dennis Dixon and Young should be up for the challenge. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Titans 14, Steelers 10.

Seahawks at Broncos

Florio’s take:  Former Broncos quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who was essentially run off when Josh McDaniels became the head coach, returns to town with a team that unexpectedly won in Week One by 25 points.  But it’s one thing to put a pasting on the 49ers at home in the season opener, it’s quite another to do it in Denver.

Florio’s pick:  Broncos 24, Seahawks 17.

Rosenthal’s take: These teams that are a total mystery, especially the Seahawks.  Can Seattle play so inspired without the 12th man?  What is this team good at precisely?  It looks like Pete Carroll is going to make this defense better and more interesting.  The offense has work to do.  In Denver, I know what I’m getting from Kyle Orton and his band of merry secondary receivers.  The Broncos can beat suspect NFC West teams at home.

Rosenthal’s pick: Broncos 28, Seahawks 21.

Rams at Raiders

Florio’s take:  The Rams looked better than expected in Week One; the Raiders looked far worse.  But Oakland is at home and the Rams are still learning how to win.  Though neither team will be embarrassed, look for the Raiders to take care of business in the Black Hole.

Florio’s pick: Raiders 17, Rams 10.

Rosenthal’s take: The optimism stops here for one of these teams. The Raiders wouldn’t be able to sell progress after a blowout loss on the road and a home loss to the Rams.  Sam Bradford has given the Rams hope for the future, but the present looks awfully bleak if they go 0-2 with a soft opening schedule.  Two Raiders, including Jason Campbell, alluded to being overconfident heading into the Titans game.  You know, because of their draft grades.  Losing 11 or more games for seven years hasn’t humbled this franchise.  Maybe losing to the Rams will. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Rams 21, Raiders 17.

Texans at Redskins

Florio’s take:  The reunion of the Shanahans and Gary Kubiak adds intrigue to a game that suddenly has become one of the best of the weekend give the teams’ performances in Week One.  We’ll quickly find out whether Houston tailback Arian Foster rolled up all those yards because he played against a bad run defense or because the Texans have become the ultimate “pick your poison” pass/run attack.  And we’ll find out whether the Redskins’ offense can score a touchdown or two without having it handed to them.

Florio’s pick:  Texans 27, Redskins 24.

Rosenthal’s take: Matt Schaub and Gary Kubiak are road favorites coming off a huge win. This is exactly the game they usually trip over, which worries me. Also worrisome:  Every aspect of the Redskins offense except their tackle play.  (How odd is that?)  Washington just doesn’t have enough firepower to hang with Houston, who should give Arian Foster a break and only rush him 25 times this week. 

Rosenthal’s pick: Texans 24, Redskins 17.

Patriots at Jets

Florio’s take:  During an offseason of incessant Jets chirping, the Patriots have remained largely silent.  Apart from Tom Brady’s acknowledgement that he hates the Jets, the Pats have avoided the trash talk.  Instead, the Patriots have saved it for the field, and the Jets may have a hard time saving themselves as the Pats make the only kind of statement that truly matters in football.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 35, Jets 13.

Rosenthal’s take: What goes up in the NFL usually comes down. And vice versa.  An overconfident team loses one week, gets ripped, and plays hungry the next time out.  Last year, Rex Ryan called the Jets’ Week Two game against the Patriots the team’s Super Bowl.  This one is far more important.  The Jets know they can’t go 0-2 at home to start the year. The Jets defense still looks great. The offense can find a way on the ground.  Don’t crown the Patriots yet; this will be a season-long battle.



Rosenthal’s pick: Jets 20, Patriots 16.

Jaguars at Chargers

Florio’s take:  Most expected one of these teams to be 1-0 and the other to be 0-1; few expected that the Jaguars would be undefeated and that the Chargers would be winless.  Though it may feel like a home game for the Jaguars since the stadium will be partially empty (rim shot!), the Chargers have the horses to get back to 1-1 against a Jaguars team that overachieved against the Broncos.

Florio’s pick:  Chargers 30, Jaguars 21.

Rosenthal’s take: The Chargers talked all offseason about avoiding yet another slow start to the year, and then slogged through a loss in the Kansas City rain.  Weather should be more conducive to vertical passing in San Diego this week. I don’t trust either secondary or either pass rush, even if Aaron Kampman looks like a fine pickup.  I’ll take Philip Rivers in a shootout over David Garrard every time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Chargers 34, Jaguars 26.
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Giants at Colts

Florio’s take:  Peyton Manning has started 0-1 only three times in his 13-year career.  Only once, as a rookie in 1998, has Peyton Manning begun a season at 0-2.  This time around, Peyton takes an 0-1 mark into his second career game against his kid brother.  And more importantly than not going 0-2 to Peyton will be avoiding losing to Eli.  Sometimes, it really is that simple.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 31, Giants 19.

Rosenthal’s take: Both brothers have grown up a lot since the last Manning Bowl.  Peyton won a Super Bowl and did the United Way spot on Saturday Night Live.  Eli won a Super Bowl, got significantly better after the title, and adjusted his Southern fraternity mop top.  That makes this a fair fight, especially if the Giants pass rush has truly reawakened.  Fair, but not equal.  Peyton is still the one with MVPs and Peyton doesn’t start the year 0-2.

Rosenthal’s pick: Colts 34, Giants 30.

Saints at 49ers

Florio’s take:  Rarely if ever has a team with high expectations imploded as quickly as the 49ers.  They open their home schedule with a visit from the Saints, who will have had the longest possible non-bye-week time to prepare for the game, playing on a Thursday and next on the following Monday, 11 days later.  After the game, Niners coach Mike Singletary will be thanking Sean Payton in the same way Singletary thanked Pete Carroll.  

Florio’s pick:  Saints 30, 49ers 13.

Rosenthal’s take: Weirdly dangerous game for the Saints against an ornery 49ers team.  New Orleans fans don’t like that I questioned their run defense this week, but one game doesn’t erase all of last season and a shaky linebacker group.  Luckily, defensive coordinator Gregg Williams doesn’t have to get too creative to stop Alex Smith and the 49ers passing attack.  Load up the box, and dare Smith to beat you.  The Saints are in Payton/Brees version 5.0.  The essentially can do anything they choose with a veteran group of receivers.  The 49ers can’t get the play calls in on time.

Rosenthal’s pick: Saints 27, 49ers 21.

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Mike Priefer: I think I’m a better man after sensitivity training

Minnesota Vikings Media Access Getty Images

Mike Priefer returned to his job as the Vikings’ special teams coach this week after serving a two-week suspension for making an disparaging remark about homosexuals during a team meeting in 2012.

One of the conditions that Priefer had to meet in order to return after two weeks instead of three was to undergo sensitivity training. Priefer said that it was hard to watch the team play games on television, but that he found the training to be a worthwhile experience that will have a lasting impact on him.

The details, we’re going to keep those confidential,” Priefer said. “But I will tell you this: It was real positive. It was very professionally done. And like anything else in life, if you put a lot into it, you’re going to get a lot out of it. I tell my kids that, I tell my players that. So I went into it with a great attitude and I got a lot out of it, quite honestly,” Priefer said, via the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “I don’t know if I’ve changed, but I think I have more awareness of my surroundings and other people around me. I think I’m a better man because of it.”

The Vikings players were happy to have him back. Fullback Jerome Felton told reporters that the team gave Priefer a standing ovation at Monday’s team meeting, something Priefer said he’ll look back on as “one of the great things that’s ever happened to me as a football coach.”

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Woods, Watkins banged up for Bills

Watkins Getty Images

As the Bills hope to improve on their 2-0 start, their two starting receivers are dealing with injuries.

For Sammy Watkins, the ribs he injured in the preseason continue to be an issue.  For Robert Woods, an ankle injury could knock him out of Sunday’s game against the Chargers.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Watkins said.  “Just day-by-day it gets better. I’ve just have to keep working and keep getting treatment. . . .  I’ve just got to keep continuing to gain confidence on the field and fight through the pains I have to fight through and just keep playing hard.”

Watkins said he doesn’t know how long he’ll keep dealing with the rib pain.

“It’s a nagging injury,” he said.  “It’s something you can play with.  Hopefully it stops.  Whenever it stops, I’ll be fine.  Right now I just have to play through it.”

Woods, who started each of the team’s first two games, may not be able to play.  Coach Doug Marrone said Thursday that, as of right now, Woods wouldn’t be able to go.

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Under new substance-abuse policy, six strikes results in a one-year banishment

Frame grabs from Naked Gun DVDCREDIT: Paramount Pictures Getty Images

With the new PED policy introduced on Wednesday, the new substance-abuse policy still isn’t official.  Once it is, a new penalty formula will apply.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, six violations of the policy will result in a one-year suspension.In general, the steps work this this:  For a first violation, the player lands in the substance-abuse program.  The second violation results in a two-game fine.  The third violation triggers a four-game fine.

At the fourth violation, suspensions commence.  Initially, it’s a four-game suspension.  For the fifth violation, the player is suspended 10 games.  At the sixth violation, the player is banished for a year.

Other penalties likely will apply based on specific circumstances, such as proof of an effort to cheat the process.  For ordinary violations, the new formula makes it a little harder for a player to be kicked out of the league for a full year.

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Jamaal Charles returns to practice for Chiefs

Jamaal Charles AP

Earlier this week, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said that running back Jamaal Charles’s high ankle sprain wasn’t a particularly severe one and Thursday’s developments lent some support to that claim.

Charles returned to practice and Herbie Teope of the Associated Press reports that he went through drills with the rest of the backs during the portion of practice open to the media. The team hasn’t offered its practice report for the day yet, so Charles may wind up being listed as limited.

Even that would represent a quick return from a high ankle sprain, however, and any time on the practice field increases the likelihood that he’ll be able to play against the Dolphins on Sunday.

The news was less positive for safety Eric Berry, who is also battling an ankle injury. Berry didn’t practice on Wednesday either, so Friday will be his last chance to show that his wheel is sound enough for duty against Miami.

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Cardinals place Jonathan Dwyer on non-football illness list, cut Chris Rainey

Cincinnati Bengals v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Cardinals have taken a different route than the Vikings and Panthers when it comes to removing a player facing criminal charges from their 53-man roster.

The team announced that they have placed running back Jonathan Dwyer on the reserve/non-football illness list rather than the exempt/commissioner’s permission list that Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy were placed on earlier this week. Both of those players will be paid while they are on the exempt list, but using NFL gives the Cardinals the option to not pay Dwyer. However, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reports that the team will continue paying Dwyer.

Dwyer is accused of assaulting his wife in July during an incident that allegedly saw him head-butt her and break her nose. He also reportedly made references to killing himself, which Somers of the reports led to mental health concerns and the illness designation.

Arizona also released running back Chris Rainey from the practice squad. Rainey was a fifth-round pick of the Steelers in 2012, but he was cut by the team after his rookie season when he was accused of slapping his girlfriend.

The team signed running back Jalen Parmele to the 53-man roster and added running back Kerwynn Williams to the practice squad.

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Kelly bristles at questions about Maclin’s size

Chip AP

On Wednesday, Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he cut receiver DeSean Jackson because Kelly wanted to get bigger at the receiver position.  On Thursday, Kelly was pressed on that point.  And he didn’t seem to like that very much.

“I’m just wondering why you brought receiver Jeremy Maclin back. He’s smaller than 70 percent of the starting outside wide receivers in the league?” a reporter asked Kelly on Thursday.

“Jeremy Maclin’s bigger than DeSean is, isn’t he?” Kelly replied. “So he’s bigger than one percent of the guy you’re talking about. I’m confused with the question.”

“I’m saying he’s smaller than 70 percent of the wide receivers,” the reporter continued.

“You can’t get everybody to be 6‑5,” Kelly said. “Everybody ideally would like a Megatron‑type guy, but you can’t get all of those guys. You have to make a decision on the direction you’re going and that’s the decision we made. . . . The weight part is the biggest thing for a lot of us in terms of what we are looking at too.”

So it’s height and it’s weight. And it’s probably salary. And there’s likely a healthy dose of “DeSean didn’t buy in” floating around.

Regardless, Jackson’s departure shows that Kelly is going to build the kind of team he wants. As long as he keeps winning, he’ll be able to do that — regardless of who he lets go.

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Police: Jonathan Dwyer head-butted wife and broke her nose

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We learned that Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on Wednesday on assault charges stemming from an incident with his wife and more details about the arrest came to light on Thursday.

According to police records, via the Arizona Republic, Dwyer and his wife got into an argument on July 21 that segued into Dwyer trying to kiss his wife and remove her clothing. She bit his lip after requests for him to stop were ignored and Dwyer allegedly head-butted her and broke her nose. Neighbors called police, but Dwyer’s wife told officers that only she and the couple’s son was at home. She reportedly left with the child later that night, but returned when Dwyer “sent a text saying he did not want to live anymore along with a picture of a knife.”

The next day, Dwyer allegedly punched his wife during another argument and threw a shoe that hit the child in the stomach. Dwyer’s wife left Arizona that night and, according to police, reported the incidents when she safely arrived in another state.

Dwyer has been deactivated by the Cardinals and the nature of the allegations, to say nothing of the enhanced spotlight on domestic violence issues, make it hard to see that changing anytime soon.

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Rolando McClain misses second straight practice

Delanie Walker, J J Wilcox, Rolando McClain AP

The Cowboys got a couple of defensive players back at practice this week with defensive end Anthony Spencer returning from injury and cornerback Orlando Scandrick getting his suspension wiped out, but it wouldn’t be the 2014 Cowboys defense if there weren’t also some bad news in the mix.

Linebacker Rolando McClain missed a second straight day of practice on Thursday because of a groin injury, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for him to show he’s able to suit up against the Rams. According to coach Jason Garrett, McClain will have to practice on Friday if he’s going to see action on Sunday.

“We certainly have confidence in his ability to play, but we believe in practice,” Garrett said, via ESPNDallas.com. “He has to practice this week in some way, shape or form for us to believe that he can play in the game, so hopefully as the week goes on, he’s able to do get out there and get some snaps.”

The first two games of this season were the first that McClain’s played since 2012, so there’s probably reason for added precaution when it comes to his return after a muscular injury.

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San Jose police not saying much about McDonald case

McDonald AP

With Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy clumsily placed on an exempt list that wasn’t really intended to provide teams with a way to, as a practical matter, suspend players with pay, the 49ers continue to refuse to take action of any kind with defensive end Ray McDonald.

They’ve been hiding behind the shield of “due process,” a concept that matters only when the question is whether a player will go to jail.  While the truth may be that they have investigated the situation and believe that McDonald did nothing wrong, the broader truth in this context is that teams have a clear bias to believe the things said by players who are regarded as important to the broader cause of winning football games.

Meanwhile, the NFL apparently has not launched an investigation of its own regarding the McDonald case.  The San Jose police have, but they’re saying nothing about what they’ve learned.

“As a professional law enforcement organization we try not to offer a personal opinion on incidents we are responsible for investigating,” officer Albert Morales told Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.  “To that end, our investigators continue to diligently conduct follow up investigations on this case.  At this time we are not at liberty to share any information that is directly related to this investigation.”

Per Maiocco, McDonald met with investigators for two hours on September 4 at the team’s facility.  At some point, more will be known about the case.  At some point, the 49ers may have to revisit their position.

Until the NFL takes these decisions out of the hands of the teams, inconsistencies and ambiguities will exist.  And fans, the media, and sponsors will be confused about precisely what the rules are in this new post-Rice video reality.

The rules very well may be that there are no rules, and that the NFL and its teams are making it up as they go.  The longer that perception lasts, the harder it will be for the league to being the process of restoring its credibility.

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Report: Doug Martin, Gerald McCoy unlikely to play Thursday night

Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers listed defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and running back Doug Martin as questionable for Thursday night’s game against the Falcons, but it doesn’t look like either one of them will be on the field.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that McCoy and Martin are both unlikely to be active for the NFC South matchup.

McCoy broke his hand in last Sunday’s loss to the Rams and he had a cast put on earlier this week. McCoy will likely suit up while his hand is in a cast, but he hinted that the quick turnaround to Thursday might make him a spectator against Atlanta.

That absence would likely hurt the Bucs more than Martin’s. Martin was out against St. Louis because of a knee injury, but Bobby Rainey had 174 total yards of offense in his place. If the offensive line can handle things up front, the running game should be just fine.

Replacing McCoy’s production is more difficult. Da’Quan Bowers and Akeem Spence will see more playing time if Tampa has to fill a McCoy-sized hole on their defensive line.

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Shad Khan fires another Fulham manager

Shad Khan AP

The Jaguars are willing to play it slow with the development of rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, for many reasons.

But Jaguars owner Shad Khan is proving far less patient with his other team.

According to The Guardian, Khan has fired Fulham manager Felix Magath, setting the stage for his fourth manager in the 14 months he’s been in control of the English soccer team. Khan had previously sacked Martin Jol and Rene Meulensteen since buying the team last July.

It’s been a turbulent time for Fulham, which was relegated from the Premier League after finishing 19th of 20 teams last year. (The bottom three teams in the league get sent down to the minors every year, and the top three in the minors get promoted to the show).

But things have gotten worse, as Fulham are 24th in the 24-team Championship (think AAA) this season, having just blown a lead to lose 5-3 to Nottingham Forest. Magath won just four games in his 20 in charge, which kind of makes him the Mike Mularkey of England.

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Jerome Simpson in more legal trouble

Jerome Simpson AP

Vikings wide receiver Jerome Simpson will serve the final game of his three-game suspension this week, but his return to eligibility may be a short one.

Ben Goessling of ESPN.com reports that Simpson, suspended after being arrested for DUI last year, has a court date on November 3 in Hennepin County, Minnesota. Simpson was cited, but not arrested, on misdemeanor charges of violating a limited license, marijuana possession and open bottle after being pulled over in a traffic stop on July 7.

Simpson’s current suspension is his second handed down by the league. He was previously suspended for three games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy in 2012 after being arrested on drug charges while he was a member of the Bengals in 2011.

A third suspension would likely be longer than three games given Simpson’s history and it could bring an end to his time in Minnesota, unless the Vikings don’t decide to just move on once Simpson’s suspension ends when Week Three comes to a close.

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Jaguars will be without Marqise Lee this week

Marqise Lee, Chad Henne AP

The Jaguars didn’t have a wealth of talent at wide receiver to begin with.

Now they have even less.

According to Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, rookie wideout Marqise Lee said he won’t play Sunday against the Colts because of a hamstring issue.

My main focus is on getting it right,” Lee said. “The hamstring can linger and if you continue to come back, come back, come back and you’re feeling 85-90 percent, you’re still going to have issues.”

The Jaguars have been without Cecil Shorts (hamstring) the first two games, and he was limited in practice Wednesday. First half of the opener sensation Allen Hurns (ankle) was also held out.

That could push fellow second-rounder Allen Robinson into the starting lineup, and might force them to play Tavarres King, who was just signed off the receiver-rich (not really) Panthers practice squad.

So while their insistence on sticking with Chad Henne might be preventing them from some things, their inability to surround their quarterback with helpful parts might be much of the reason they’re sitting rookie Blake Bortles.

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Broadcasters are using Washington team name a lot less

Washington Redskins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Plenty of fans, media, and league officials are longing for the good old days, when the NFL’s biggest controversy centered on the inevitability that the Washington franchise will, at some point, have a new name.

Until the name changes, plenty of broadcasters have tapped the brakes on using the name.  Via Brad Gagnon of Awful Announcing, Deadspin has crunched the numbers.

Based on scripts of NFL broadcasts through the first two weeks of the each of the last two seasons, the team name was said 186 times and “Washington” was used 156 times in 2013. In 2014, the team name has been mentioned only 67 times.  “Washington” has been used 169 times.

Last year, the team name was used 30 times more than “Washington.”  This year, “Washington” has been used 102 times more than the team name.

It’s a trend that will continue, and it’s an issue that eventually will resurface, lingering until the name changes, and beyond.

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Jerry Rice calls on the 49ers to deactivate Ray McDonald

riceyoung Getty Images

Jerry Rice, the former 49er considered by many to be the greatest player in NFL history, says his old team is wrong to let a player accused of domestic violence to continue to play.

Rice says that Ray McDonald, who was arrested last month and accused of assaulting his pregnant fiancee, should not be playing for the 49ers unless and until he is cleared. Rice echoed the comments of his former quarterback Steve Young, who has said that the 49ers should not hide behind “due process” and should instead take the same step that has already been taken with accused abusers Greg Hardy in Carolina, Adrian Peterson in Minnesota and Jonathan Dwyer in Arizona.

“I think I’m just like Steve Young — I would have totally just taken him off the field until it’s resolved,” Rice told SI.com. “But they have decided to let him play, and it’s just unfortunate. I feel that when you have something that’s weighing you down like that, because it’s a very important topic, and it’s very sensitive, I just feel he should have been taken off the field.”

At a time when the rest of the NFL seems to think that an abuse allegation is enough to take a player off the field, the 49ers are taking a very different stand. It’s a stand that finds them taking harsh criticism, even from some of the greatest players in the history of their franchise.

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